From the Field Museum.

AuthorWali, Alaka
PositionFROM READERS - Letter to the Editor

We congratulate World Watch for highlighting the importance of the article "A Challenge to Conservationists" on the cover. The issues are serious and of global significance. As Mac Chapin observes, whether immediately evident or not, conservationists, traditional, and indigenous people need each other in the face of grave threats to the sustainability of life on our planet. Conservationists and indigenous peoples need to identify good examples of creative collaborations, at the same time that we reflect on, and move beyond, failures.

The Latin American subgroup of the indigenous peoples representatives at the Durban World Conservation Congress, in September 2003, pointed out that the high profile accusations against big conservationists were obscuring the voices from those projects where conservationists and local people are collaborating. They are also making it harder for indigenous communities to reach out to conservation organizations for assistance. The indigenous representatives hoped that there could be more recognition of the good examples of their own efforts to protect their biodiversity, and their work in collaboration between indigenous and traditional peoples and conservation organizations.

At Field Museum, we have formed a group that brings biologists, social scientists, and practitioners together to act on the conviction that local and indigenous people living in biodiverse areas value biodiversity. If given the chance and the support, these people will act to conserve their lands. We believe that local citizens are "political actors who can form an environmental constituency" (Chapin, p. 27). With funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, we have worked with communities, local governments, national NGOs, federations, and universities to create new protected areas and indigenous reserves in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

Since 2002, we have included a social component in every Rapid Biological Inventory we have conducted to insure that from the very beginning local people are part of the decision-making about long-term stewardship of their landscapes. The last two inventories have been conducted directly in collaboration with and at the behest of local indigenous groups and their allied NGOs in Peru. One was done in the Ampiyacu region with Bora and Huitoto Peoples and the Instituto Bien Comun (IBC). The...

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